Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Learning From Libertarians

A few years back, I found myself born again in making a political party conversion from Republican to Libertarian.  As such conversions go, this wasn't so much of an "Ah Ha" moment as it was an "Uh huh" moment.  I had been encouraged to attend the gathering of a group that was attempting to start up a Libertarian organization in Lucas County, Ohio at which that friend of mine (Brian Wilson) was speaking.  While I knew that he was a long-time small 'L' libertarian who was more than up to the challenge of presenting the party's point of view, I was curious about those others who might also be attending.

We were a pretty mixed lot as it turned out; some strongly pursuing a single issue that was likewise held under the general principles of the party, some who were merely curious like myself, and some who were seriously trying to pursue a rational framework in which to few the world in general and government and politics in particular.  While not really much of a joiner in the past, I found myself impressed enough with what I discovered  that I decided to fill out one of the the forms that was handed out at the end of the meeting and register as a member of the Libertarian Party.  

As everyone knows who has lived through such an experience, parting with an 'Ex' is a difficult time.  Investing yourself in a relationship (even with a political party) carries with it a residual of memories and emotions that are difficult to let go of.  Having grown up in the Democratic hotbed of the Windy City, I rejected its teachings after Bobby Kennedy and while not a Nixon fan went over to the Dark Side.   I was not of age to vote until the 1976 elections however, and having Jimmy Carter pitted against Gerald Ford was an experience that damn near put me off voting for life.  Like many others however, my spirits recovered in 80 and 84 when Reagan ran for office; even though a lot of the small government ideals espoused never really came to fruition.  In ensuing years, my spirit again flagged, as the GOP ran a series of big government, 'me next' candidates (though I did have some enthusiasm for Jack Kemp).  

So I suppose that in my new found enthusiasm as a libertarian, I hoped that my 'Ex' would not only understand the reason for my desertion, but might even learn something from why it had happen; perhaps someday embracing the path that I had chosen.  Government after all, had been inexorably growing regardless of the party in the power or the number of branches in which they held sway.  Sure, Clinton could talk about the fact that "the era of big government was over", but nobody really believed it ... including him.  Now that I was truly part of a movement that truly believed in smaller, less restrictive government; where Washington spent only the money it took in, (and the less of that the better) I hoped that Lincoln's party might learn enough to once again free us from chattel service to the bloated nature of Washington (the city, not the man).

Now some of you might wonder why instead I didn't fall into lockstep behind every Libertarian candidate out there in order to promote the world I sought.  The answer however, was simple.  While libertarian beliefs were a logical and organized sense of principles, the party that espoused them was often anything but.   Something about the nature of libertarians made them inherently suspicious of a party 'organization'.  Perhaps the freedom they sought to follow their own paths and their willingness to accept personal responsibility for doing so may have made them ideal to lead the country, but it also made them as easy to get going in a single direction as a herd of cats.  

Just being a libertarian (unlike some places where just being a Democrat or Republican) did not automatically make a person the a good candidate, let alone a good elected official. In a party that prided itself in having nothing to 'trade' with big donors, libertarian candidates were often woefully short of funding as a consequence.  The long-entrenched nature of the two-party system in this country did nothing to make it easier, and rules specifically designed to leave it a two-player system made it damned near impossible for anyone else to try and play the game.  (If you don't believe me, read up some day on the struggle required to even get Libertarian candidates on ballots or count the number or recent state and national debate venues in which a libertarian candidate was allowed to participate.)

And so the libertarian was also placed in a unique position in American politics of knowing the path to be followed, but unable to guide the team.  Libertarians constantly found themselves during elections in the unenviable choice of holding fast to their principles and gaining nothing; or abandoning them to pick a 'lesser of evils' that might slow, of not stem the growing tide.  Neither choice served well, and both left one with lingering pangs of guilt.

I've discovered recently however, that without noticing it, some of the lessons of libertarians have in fact crept into mainstream Republican thinking.  Unfortunately however, they are not the ones that I hoped for.  Instead of returning to the shadow of conservative principles that they knew under Reagan (and even to an extant, under the Contract with America), what they've learned instead is a is an attempt at greater popularity through a dilution of those ideas.  Instead of enacting their own vision of a smaller government, they've learned instead cover their light in a basket of blandness lest they be called extremists and scare the children.  Instead of presenting a united front of shared beliefs in self-reliance and personal responsibility, they hide at the first resistance by the nanny state to protect single issues which by themselves are largely indefensible in the current political climate.

If you haven't figured what I'm getting at yet, what Republicans have learned from libertarians is to adopt a pattern of practiced and and almost endemic disorganization, to fail utterly in rallying and holding the troops in key issues,  and to find themselves scattered at the first sign of resistance.  Like those they often themselves cast aspersions on, they have learned a pattern of failed tactics in everything from discovering what their message is to getting their message out.  They have allowed their opponents to characterize them and their ideas (much as with libertarians, such characterization becomes about legalizing drugs and prostitution), without demanding an understanding of the core philosophy from which such ideals germinate.  Far too often, they are now forced from the debate not because of flaws in their position, but by the outmaneuvering of their opponents.

Yes, unfortunately the GOP has learned the worst of what the libertarian party has to offer, rather than accepting its best.  Perhaps its a sign that we are in fact witnessing the last days of a party in retreat and the ascension of one only now beginning to learn its way. I can't yet say for sure.  I think however that if conservative principles are to play a realistic part in the national debate however, one of the two needs to learn a better way of cat herding for both's sake.  

Monday, January 28, 2013

TFP Column: College Education

While I have been rather tardy in the delivery my work to the TFP lately, this week I found myself almost too early.  The implications of an issue that I had been paying minor attention over the last week struck struck a chord over the weekend after reading an article by Neil King Jr. in the Wall Street Journal; and I thought that it was something worth talking about.

You see, the Republicans had decided to meet in North Carolina, something that I'm sure had nothing to do with the fact that the weather is warmer there this time of year than in say Minneapolis; or that the Democrats had their national convention there in 2012.  It seems that like every political party does after losing an election, some of the party faithful like to get together to figure out what they did wrong and to discuss some ideas on how to do it better.  During this year's GOP gabfest, a little understood part of the system of presidential voting was getting a second look by a number of Republicans during that meeting.

Sure I could tell you about it here, but then you would miss the "College Education" that I'm happy to provide in this week's effort.  It's quite amazing what small changes on the the parts of States might make in the larger national picture.

Of course this is my second effort over just the last three or four days, and comes just barely after the distribution of the print edition.  This doesn't mean that I won't come up with something else before next weekend (in spite of it being a short week for me owing to some personal travel), but it does mean that I won't have a clue of what's coming up in either the mid-week "Star" edition or next weekend's.  So I guess you're going to have to look for yourself if you want to have a clue about what's going on in the Glass City by reading Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and Ohio's best weekly paper for years ... The Toledo Free Press.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Jester

Listening to Glenn Beck yesterday, I was informed that one of the new White House inner circle was found to be nothing more than a blogger.  A BLOGGER?  Are kidding me?  What are these knuckle-headed knuckle-draggers in Washington doing adding a blogger in a position of authority to their midst.  What, after all, could a blogger possibly offer to the inside-the-beltway experts of politics (except maybe some clear thinking and fresh air), let alone to a White House that has begun to take on airs of its own (like those of a monarch that all Administrations inevitably do during a second term)?  

Don't get me wrong here. Glenn and his cohorts may be right that this new addition to the Administration may be an over-the-top partisan ideologue. (Which has probably never happened before, right?)   He may also be little more than a amateur political hack (which actually seems SOP for White House appointments from both parties).  He may even be, as accused, sitting around his house in his underwear writing sniping comments about the political opposition (which wouldn't be a bad gig if it were you could actually make a living at it).  

On the other hand, at least he wouldn't be a someone who had never had a job that didn't involve feeding at the political trough, someone who might not have spent half of their life running for office and the other half desperately trying to keep it, or someone who was so inbred in the corruption of DC culture that using the inside information provided to members of the national legislature to accrue a personal fortune seemed a reasonable thing to do.  Neither would he be a failed news reader, corporate mouthpiece, or failed ESPN sportscaster turned political pundit.  (Yes, I mean you Keith Olbermann.)  Contrary to popular belief, there are a number of intelligent, savvy, and creative people that are writing blogs; and the rest of us are making a heroic effort to drag ourselves out of the shallow end of the gene pool in order to be worthy of their efforts. 

Now of course, in the midst of my pseudo-rant, I couldn't help but be notice that the nom de plume currently under attack was one that fit me like the cheap suit I sometimes wear.  Bloggers are after all, are still a rather curious group coming of age in this era of new media.  How you feel about them as a group is likely to have as much to do with whether you agree with what they say, how well they say it, and how much competition they've become for more traditional sources of media than what they're actually writing.

As a blogger, I've been known to do a fair job of pointing out the obvious naked condition of the emperor in my own tawdry efforts.  Certainly among the more elite of the milieu there must be far wiser and better examples in both local and national venues.  Some, I know for a fact have journalistic credentials, others have personal or professional experience that lends greater insight to their efforts, and some have terrific contacts and sources of information.  Most of them quite frankly, are far more capable of expressing themselves coherently than your average Congressman or Senator (regardless of whether its at the state or national level).  

This is not to say that you'll find me claiming in line for a top-flight job as a Presidential adviser (at least in this administration), though one might come to believe that the White House could use someone out of this New Media with a sense of humor that was willing to tell truth to power.  It might even seem like somebody close to the Commander-in-Chief could use a bit more expertise in stringing words together (without the constant use of  a teleprompter), as well the ability to give the man at the top the appearance of a less atrophied sense of humor.  

Interestingly, as all of this rather subject 'inside baseball' information played itself out during the last week, one of one of my favorite Danny Kaye movies "The Court Jester" was shown.  It's the title song written by Sammy Cahn and Sylvia Fine, "The Mal-Adjusted Jester" seemed to fit such the situation perfectly:

Your majesty, I have a confession
My secret I must now betray
I was not a born fool
It took work to get this way

When I was a lad I was gloomy and sad
And I was from the day I was born
When other lads giggled and gurgled and wiggled
I proudly was loudly forlorn
My friends and my family looked at me clammily
Thought there was something amiss
When others found various antics hilarious
All I could manage was this –hoo hoo
Or this – hoo waahhh

My father he shouted he needs to be clouted
His teeth on a wreath I’ll hand him
My mother she cried as she rushed to my side
You’re a brute and you don’t understand him
So they send for a witch with a terrible twitch
To ask how my future impressed her
She took one look at me and cried hehehehehe, he?
What else could he be but a jester?

A jester a jester, a funny idea a jester
No butcher no baker no candlestick maker
And me with the look of a fine undertaker
Impressed her as a jester?

Now where could I learn any comical turn
That was not in a book on the shelf
No teacher to take me and mold me and make me
A merryman fool or an elf
But I’m proud to recall that in no time at all
With no other recourses but my own resources
With firm application and determination
I made a fool of myself!

I started to travel to try to unravel
My mind and to find a new chance
When I got to Spain it was suddenly plain
That the field that appealed was the dance
The Spanish were clannish but I wouldn’t vanish
I learned every step they had planned
The first step of all isn’t hard to recall
Cause the first step of all is to stand
And stand
And stand, and stand, and stand, and stand... 

After all of my practice the terrible fact is
I made a fool of myself

I sadly decided that dancing as I did
To sing was a thing that was sure
I found me a teacher a crotchety creature
Who used to sing coloratura
She twisted my chin pushed my diaphragm in
With a poker she vocalized me
When she said it was best that I threw out my chest
You may gather that rather surprised me

I was on solid ground till I suddenly found
That in Venice I was to appear
The gala locale was a choppy canal
And me, a high sea gondolier
I nervously perched as the gondola lurched
Before the King’s palazzo
As I started my song my voice it was strong
But my stomach I fear was not so

Oh solo mio, ooohhhhhhhh
Oh solo ooohhhhhhhh Help!

When I fell overboard how his majesty roared
And before a siesta he made me his jester
And I found out soon that to be a buffoon
Was a serious thing as a rule
For a jester’s chief employment
Is to kill himself for your enjoyment

And a jester unemployed is nobody’s fool.

Friday, January 25, 2013

TFP Column: Hilary Hearing

I exchanged a few words with TFP Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller this week about some things that I was working on, specifically about an effort that was coming together on cheap political theater of Secretary of State Hilary Clinton's testimony before the House and Senate committees.  Michael gave me just enough incentive to follow through on the effort that I was working on (he didn't refuse to use it).

While I was willing to take on what should be considered to be "the most disappointing debut since Star Wars Episode I" in a couple of different ways in a misguided attempt to make it marginally more informative than the weekly farm report, the effort left me with so little creative energy left that I could even come up with a clever title to go with it.  As a result, what you will get on the TFP website this week remained the "Hilary Hearing".   (Sorry about that....)

Fortunately, those of you who take the time to follow a few of the other efforts in this weekend's edition will find not only more interesting titles and stories, you will also find out what's going on in the Glass City these days.  There's cold and snow forecast for those of you in Northwest Ohio anyway, so why not curl up in front of a fire with Toledo's largest Sunday circulation (and Ohio's best weekly) newspaper, the Toledo Free Press.


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Isn't It Funny Too (II)

It seems that even more "Isn't Funny ..." ideas occurred to me after the first such posting was put up.  I even got a few suggestions from friends such as Brad Reynolds that needed to have a place somewhere in a listing.  Like the previous list, these little bits of life's ironies are not in fact, the periodic WTH (pardon my capitals) moments that suddenly occur to us, but more in line with the overall ludicrous nature of what we laughingly call civilization in general, and our legal and political systems in particular.  Because these are additional offerings in a second posting, I couldn't decide how to phrase this one.  I therefore chose to both applicable word usages in yet another bit of irony. (Though I suppose that 'Isn't It Also Funny would be a more proper grammatical form.  Get over it.)

  • Isn't funny that one of the centers of liberalism in this country (Hollywood) makes much of its money from movies depicting things that Liberals absolutely abhor and the rest from traditional Conservative values? 
  • Isn't it also funny that the government pays people to produce more of things that it says are bad (tobacco and oil), then makes other people pay them in turn (cigarette and gas taxes) for using what are supposed to be the bad products produced under such government encouragement?  
  • Isn't it funny that the only thing more annoying that a politician giving another fairly well-written, but seemingly endless set of teleprompter prepared remarks are the hours of even more boring analysis, historical perspective, and critical parsing of those remarks by 'inside the beltway' pundits?
  • Isn't it funny that some of the worst acting on television comes from those working in reality TV shows that are attempting to portray ... themselves? 
  • Isn't funny, speaking of reality shows, that many of them are people who are rich or attempting to become so, at a time when those of wealth are considered little more than an object of scorn? 
  • Isn't it funny that the more channels that you have on your cable system, the less likely that you will be able to find something you want to watch on TV?
  • Isn't it funny that after queuing up hundreds of movies on Netflix that you want to make sure to watch at one point, that you can go down the entire list later, unconvinced that you want to give any of them the 90 minutes required?  
  • Isn't it funny that some of the same states that have very strict laws against driving while under the influence also have drive-thru liquor stores?
  • Isn't it funny that wineries take great pains to provide stopper systems to keep air out of wine, but recommend that you let a recently opened bottle 'breathe' before serving it?
  • Isn't it funny the longer these lists get, the less amusing any of this becomes?     

Yeah, I'm still not laughing either... 

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Isn't It Funny ....

Every now and again, we have to take a look around us and recognize the ludicrous nature of the world we live in.  I'm not talking about the periodic WTF (pardon my capitals) that most of experience on a regular basis, but instead about the ludicrous nature of what we laughingly call civilization in general, and our legal and political systems in particular.  Since many of you out there may have neither the time, inclination, or the twisted perspective seek the 'Pretzel Logic' under which most of us live (and yes, that is in fact a Steely Dan reference).

  • Isn't it funny that after being in a potentially life-threatening automobile accident (even a single car one) police will site you for a seat-belt violation?
  • Isn't it funny that one of the largest impediments to beginning the necessary infrastructure projects that the federal government has been tell us that we're falling dangerously behind on is the endless regulatory review process that this same federal government imposes on these very same projects? 
  • Isn't it funny when a municipality installs red-light cameras, not for revenue, but for safety; then resets the timers to shorten the duration of the yellow lights not for safety (in fact making these lights less safe), but for revenue?
  • Isn't it funny that the banking industry in this country is ultimately controlled by the policies set up by the Federal Reserve, which is an independent organizations made up of ... (wait for it)  ... bankers? 
  • Isn't it funny that so many called for 'Mandatory Minimum' sentences for drug users, sellers, and distributors?  Then they called for the removal of these minimums since it was unfair to some of those convicted of crimes since it didn't allow for proper judicial discretion.  Now the call is going out for Mandatory Minimums for those using a gun ....
  • Isn't it funny that when Republicans refused vote on bills passed Democratic members of the national legislature, they quickly became known as "the Party of No", but when the roles reversed and Senate Democrats refused to vote on bills passed by a Republican-controlled House, so such designation was forthcoming?
  • Isn't it funny that the Republican Party which claims to be the most fiscally conservative booted the most fiscally conservative of their party from their Congressional Committee positions?
  • Isn't it funny that the Securities and Exchange Commission has special laws to keep anyone from using 'Insider Information' to profit from stock trades, but allows members of Congress to do so without penalty?
  • Isn't it funny that the Republican Party is considered to be racist in spite of the fact that not only was the Civil War begun in large part because of the election of the first Republican president and his stand on slavery; but that all of the significant civil rights legislation was passed by a Republican-controlled Congress (against strong Democratic objection) some 100 years later?
  • Isn't funny that 'Federalism' stands for a principle in which the central (or in our case Federal) government shares power on an equal footing with respective State governments and 'Anti-Federalism' is about providing more power to that Federal government and less to the States?
  • Isn't it funny that you have to show identification of some sort of identification at the Department of Motor Vehicles in order to obtain a form of identification like a driver's license or State ID?
  • Speaking of a driver's license, isn't it funny that you have to pass government mandated curriculum of a bare minimum of knowledge in order to receive government issued license to drive, yet no such standard is allowed to be used when it comes to voting? 
  • Isn't it funny that tax cuts granted by Congress normally have an expiration or renewal date, and tax increases are almost always permanent?
  • Isn't it funny that almost no other laws than the tax cuts passed by Congress have expiration dates? 
  • Isn't it funny that Republicans are being called obstructionist for wanting to negotiate areas of the nation's finances, and the President and Democrats are not for refusing to do so?
  • Isn't it funny that the Federal Government is apparently going broke over Pension and  Medical Care programs that Congress refuses to address in a fiscally responsible or logical way in spite of (or because of) the fact that they have no vested interest in these programs; having put their own medical and pension benefits outside of them?

Isn't it funny that I'm not laughing either?

Thursday, January 17, 2013

TFP Column: There Ought to be a Law

A good crisis shouldn't go to waste, so it was of little surprise that the White House used the opportunity to put forth an attempt at Gun Control.  As voices around the nation cry out that "There Ought to be a Law", few have bothered to discover that there are already some 20,000 laws on the books regarding guns that didn't manage to prevent Sandy Hook.  Fewer still have read the Department of Justice report that ten years of a Assault Weapons Ban had no impact on the number of the 'multiple murders' committed, that most of the murders committed were with hand guns, or that many of the cities with the most restrictive gun laws have the highest murder rates with guns.  (I know, these are just silly little details that don't go with the predominant narrative.)

Fortunately, there will be far more and far more cheerful narrative in this weekend's TFP.  There will likewise be plenty of pesky little facts and some narrative from both sides of the aisle that you might not only find factual, but interesting as well.

The again, what would you expect from Toledo's largest circulation Sunday and Ohio's best newspaper for the last four years ... The Toledo Free Press.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Welcome to Holiday Desolation

We may not be even two weeks into the new year, but for those of you who haven't noticed it, we are firmly into the season of Holiday Desolation.  It's not really fair when you come to think of it, especially when you consider that we end each year with four of the biggest holidays.  

Halloween in October is fast becoming the biggest holiday of the year in terms of the decorations that we buy (especially when you add in the personal decorations, better known as costumes).  Add in what we spend on candy for the rug rats, and it's likewise becoming one of the most expensive holidays of the year.

Thanksgiving follows just four weeks later (depending on the vagaries of the calendar and the municipal trick-or-treat rules); and earns its credentials not only through sheer caloric intake, but through bringing families together once a year long enough to remind them of why they don't do so any other time of the year.  Having spent the past couple of weeks gorging ourselves on chocolate confections left over from the previous holiday (mostly because we again forgot to turn the porch light on and let the little beggars know we were open for business), we can now look forward to tryptophan induced somnolence while likewise over-indulging in parades and football games.

Following again just four weeks later is the grandaddy of them all, Christmas.  It's that one that Lucy defines all too aptly in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" as:  "You know, Santa Claus and ho-ho-ho, and mistletoe and presents to pretty girls."  It's the holiday upon which greedy capitalism reaches its excessive real-life realization, not through the necessity of buying Lucy her hearts desire; but through those, "He went to Jared's" efforts that a man makes on his way home from the Lexus dealership.  After all, what way is there to celebrate a pagan, religious, and secular holiday than through automobiles and coal (wait, I thought only bad people got that) which gets put through enormous pressure and temperature (kind of like the credit card payments afterwards).  

Lest we think that rest is ahead, exactly one week later we're joined by an old guy thinking he's at a college toga party and a baby wearing a diaper, black tie, and a top hat informing us that it's last call and extolling us to have just one more cocktail in the hopes that we can spend the first day of the new year trying to get someone to bail us out of jail.  Then what?    

After celebrating for the last three months straight, what do we get in January?  Well there's Inauguration Day, but it's a politician's holiday celebrated only by the people who voted for the guy being inaugurated.  The only people who get the day off are politicians in Washington DC; with exception of incoming president, who has to take an oath and give a speech.  Martin Luther King Jr Day makes an appearance on the day after this year (which is curiously also celebrated as Robert E Lee's Birthday in AL, AR, GA, and MS), but as of yet this holiday barely rates a mattress sale.  (It's not a real holiday if there's not a mattress sale.)   But that's it for the month .... nothin'.

It picks up slightly in February with a ridiculous holiday about a weather-predicting rodent in a town in PA that 98% of Americans couldn't spell without looking it up.  If it weren't for Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell effort (and my son's coming nuptials), few if any would care about it now.  Then along comes yet another New Year, the Chinese New Year (after Jan 1 and the Orthodox New Year); followed by Lincoln's Birthday, which was so important that we've recently dropped it like a bad habit to combine it with Washington's birthday in some meaningless thing called 'President's Day'.  Of course there's always Mardi Gras, but only if you happen to be in the right part of the South. over-serve yourself, and trade the beads that we used to be able to buy entire islands for (like Manhattan) for the glandular exposure that we used to see in National Geographic. (Who may have been the same people we bought the islands from.)

Of course there is one possible holiday entrant in February, Valentine's Day.  Originally named for one of the two Catholic saints of the same name (nobody's sure which),  it has now become little more than a 'Hallmark Holiday" of love and romance in which cards, candy, and of course vast quantities of jewelry are purchased by men for women to make up for the really crappy things that they will undoubtedly do the to them rest of the year.  In a rather twisted association, this day of amorous behavior is also remembered for the 1929 massacre of seven mob guys, allegedly by members of Al Capone's social circle who were apparently not all that fond of them.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I must point out that I married my first wife on a Valentines Day.  I deny the conjecture that has since arisen that I did so in order to avoid having to purchase both a Valentine and Anniversary gift annually; and wish to state that I did so only because a was young, innocent, and a sentimental slob at the time.  I can further state for the record that I am no longer .... young.

With that, February has nothing further to contribute.  Neither does March for that matter.  Oh sure some of the more favored celebrate my granddaughters birthday on the same day that they let everybody dress up in green on the 17th to celebrate an Irish saint that was actually English (Ireland was too poor at the time to afford its own saints).  In a twisted US observance, green Budweiser and Miller is consumed in practices which would in fact considered sacrilege on Emerald Isle. (Drinking Budweiser and Miller is only a venal sin, but dying it green in a misguided effort to make it sacramental or palatable in some way however makes such a sin a mortal one indeed.)  It's not until the end of the month when another pagan holiday that's been co-opted by a religious holiday is celebrated as a secular holiday (confusing, isn't it?) that we get our first real break in the month's of long monotony.  It's the end of May however before we once more resume normal holiday observances (I refuse to accept Cinco de Mayo, Arbor Day, or April 15th's Tax Day)

Personally, I find the whole concept ridiculous.  What better time to reward citizens and improve their state of mind than with holidays during the gray days of winter.  When are breaks from the mindless tedium of everyday existence required more than during the time of year when we are weary from shoveling snow, depressed from the lack of daylight, and all but suicidal from having filled out our income tax forms.  But no, in typically misguided government fashion, we get far more mandated days off when the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the weather is warm.  

You know, perhaps we could get Congress to pass a law mandating a holiday during this period of holiday desolation.  Who better than they to pass something truly pointless for no better reason than to win approval from voters that who think less favorably of them than of head lice (understandable, when you consider that you can get rid of head lice).  How about the:  Half-assed Ordinance to Lighten Individual Drudgery Arbitrarily and Yearly Act?


Friday, January 11, 2013

TFP column: You Have to Try

After taking some required time off to rest and recover after Holiday duties, I am once more entering the fray.  It was interesting in "You Just Have to Try" for the TFP to compare what looks to some pointless trench warfare that's about to begin in Congress with the Debt Ceiling and Budget Battle ahead in 2013 with the fiscal battles that Toledo faces as well in its annual budget with the addition of Shaun Enright to replace Phil Copeland (whose leaving for his new job in the County Recorder's Office).  

I fully expect that we'll see little in the coming from the 'No Man's Land' of Washington DC; with few paying more than lip service to finding common ground, and even less proposing real cuts to budget more bloated than a bloated whale on a Malibu beach.  

With yet another in Toledo's City Council representing 'union interests' in this local legislature (something which I wish I could say was severely under-represented without lying).  I believe that here too we can expect an abundance of SSDD, with some creative fiction holding the 'balanced' budget together long enough to raid the Capital Improvement Budget to actually balance it.  (And if anyone should know about 'unbalanced', it's me.)  

On the other hand, everything in this weekends edition promises to be far more balanced, with the exception of the scale that Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller is using.  Michael's weight may be the only thing on the planet going down faster than the national debt is going up.

So my advice would be to spend a bit of the weekend maintaining your own balance by some time with Toledo's largest Sunday circulation and and Ohio's Best Weekly newspaper for the last four years, the Toledo Free Press.  

Sandy Hook Elementary is Deplorable

I've waited a fair bit of time since the heinous affair that occurred in Sandy Hook Elementary School, for no better reason than it seemed a good idea to wait until more the the facts are in and emotions weren't ruling the day.  It seems however that with the death of the perpetrator, that few additional pertinent facts will come to light.  It also seems that there's little chance that emotions regarding this case will not settle down until the next such horrific event.

Now let me begin by saying two things:

1. I can't begin to imagine the loss that the families of these 26 victims are feeling.  While I too have lost family members at far to young an age, such losses can never be comprehended by those not intimately involved with them (and eventually time begins to heal such wounds), and no rain-soaked stack of flowers and teddy bears will compensate them for their loss.  

2. I have not only never owned a gun, but in fact have never even fired one.  My opinions therefore, are not of the Charlton Heston 'prying my gun from my cold, dead hand' variety.

I do submit the following for your consideration however:

* Before we ban these so-called assault weapons, should we not recognize that more murders are committed with hand guns?  Are we therefore going to ban hand guns as well?
* If the fault is not the gun, then certainly it must be the size of the ammunition clip or magazine, which allow those committing such acts to shoot more people without reloading.  We should therefore ban those which hold more ten bullets.  
OK, but if you're in a house at night that's being broken into and you don't know by how many individuals, how many bullets would you like in your gun?  Considering what an emotionally charged situation this is, how close would you like more bullets?
* We currently have some 20,000 laws on gun ownership in this country, which is probably more than any level of law enforcement can remember, let alone enforce.  How many more unenforced or unenforceable laws would it take then to stop such events.

* These kinds of activities are not perpetrated by the average law-abiding gun owner, but by those suffering from some form of madness or delusion, or those who are just plain evilEven if you could get the medical profession to release private medical data to those doing the background checks (a dangerous situation in and of itself), do you really think that you can legislate against madness, evil, or even against stupidity for that matter

* If we're going to ban certain types of guns, or types of bullets, or the size of certain bullet containers; because of their contributing factor to a culture of violence, what else are we will to or should we ban?  Violent movies or TV shows (whose standards are increasingly relaxed), violent video games, books with violence (comic or otherwise)?  We've banned dodgeball in most schools because of its violence; should we add tag, cops and robber, and Cowboys and Indians to that list as well? 
Sure, we could place armed guards in our schools and that would provide a modicum of safety, but how many should that be if all are to be held safe.  What implications would there be in the schools to the latent paranoia that accompanies the maturing process if such watchdogs were present in our educational institutions.  
Of course there's always the inconvenience of the 2nd Amendment.  Say what you will about the Founding Fathers, but they did a pretty good job in setting a government that was capable of lasting over 200 years, even with generations of politicians attempting to re-interpret them.  They were by no means perfect, but one could easily make the case that they did a far better job in writing it, than we've done in the last couple of centuries attempting to amend their original thinking (and in the end, doing damn little of that).

Like I'm sure all of you, I deplore what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary.  What I deplore equally as much however, are the sorry solutions that many in government and the media try to put forward in the wake of such a tragedy.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Who's Got the Power

For those of you expecting a rant about which party controls government here, you're about to be disappointed.  Instead this is about the results of all of the power that you've been saving the last couple of years and what it means to you in the years ahead.  Energy-saving appliances, high-efficiency air conditioners, furnaces, and hot-water heaters, and of course those lovely (and toxic) energy efficient light bulbs that we've all planted, and which are now starting to bear fruit.  It's a bitter fruit however.

The graph above shows information released by the US Energy Information Administration that  in spite of continued population growth we are either using less energy (as in transportation and industrial) or at worst minimally increasing demand (residential and commercial) for the amount of energy that we are consuming as a nation.  What is the result of all this sacrifice and belt-tightening in the way of expensive new appliances and even more expensive light bulbs ... energy now costs more.

Now I suppose it's understandable to have to pay more for electricity when those producing it are having difficulty keeping up with the demand out there.  These are basic market influences that have been in place since civilization began.  With demand waning however, one would in fact suspect that supply and demand would see costs going down.  

Oh sure, the EPA regs are making it increasingly difficult to use coal, and coal is cheap as a consequence of its abundant supply and decreasing demand.  Natural gas, its bituminous counterpart; is not only far less polluting, but available in supplies that are currently project to last for hundreds of years and as cheap as it's been in the last 15 years.  Oil too, seems to have been discovered in far greater supplies than was previously known in this nation, and its price has been relatively stable over the last couple of years.  

As detailed today in the Kansas City Star however, rates for electricity in the Kansas City area look to be going up by about 10%, with state regulators granting Kansas City Power and Light $64 million of a requested $106 million in rate increases.  For those of you who haven't been keeping track (which is of course what they're counting on), this means that electric rates have gone up some 42.7 % since 2000.  In spite of that, Regulators called the result of this decision a success since they reduced the stockholders requested 'return on equity' (profit) from 10.4% to 9.7%. So let's get this straight, Kansas City Power and Light was granted a 10% profit margin by government mandate; and for selling less of their product than they have in the past, regardless of the what's involved in producing its product in the first place.

You know, there's nothing like knowing that the government's got your back and what therefore your profit margin is going to be as a business before you actually do business.  It's nice to have a warm, fuzzy government agency grant you a higher profit margin by fiat than most businesses make after a year's hard work.  And with the exception of farmers, who still unaccountably get paid by government for not growing crops on land that they own, it's nice to get paid more for producing less.

Why should anyone else care about these tragic numbers .... because it's happening all over the country.  All of the more efficient power plants, infrastructure improvements, and declining usage have left us with nothing in the way of lower costs.  In fact, electricity remains one of those bastions of constant rate increases.  If usage is us, rates are required to go up in or to serve customers.  If usage is down, rates are required to go up in order to make up for the lack of revenue generated by customers (pun intended).  Of course, there's probably more that I could say on the subject; but running computers takes electricity after all.  So while can still afford both my groceries and my electric bill, I will simply as the question:

The Power Companies or the Local Regulators, who really has the power?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

The "Stuck On Stupid" Dictionary #38

It seems only fitting that the first post of 2013 should come from the lazy lexicographers of the SOS Dictionary.  After all, their efforts are at best sporadic and at worst all but nonexistent.  Senior Staff has been informed of recently released NLRB (National Labor Relations Board) regulations that appear to prevent them from properly rewarding these staff members for their level of performance (but have no fear, we'll come up with something).

Now there have been some requests over the years for publishing of the ponderous tome better known as the SOS or "Stuck on Stupid" Dictionary, but owing to the work ethic and performance level of the SOS scribblers, it's entirely possible that the current crop will all be taking a dirt nap before a comprehensive volume is available.  It's currently too big for a posting and too small for a printing.  If anyone has any ideas as to how to reconcile these seemingly irreconcilable positions, I will be more than happy to submit suggestion to those in charge.

On the other hand, there may actually be those of you who reading this who have somehow managed to miss previous postings on this subject (shame on you, now go back and search all of the postings under the label of  'Dictionary'), the SOS dictionary is a reference guide to terms which nominally mean something to the rest of the English speaking world, but appears to mean something entirely different when looked at through the jaded eyes and rose colored glasses of the SOS dictionary staff.

In light of yet another bit of last minute legislative crisis resolution, the following entry was deemed a necessary addition:
Comprehensive Law 

1.  Legislation of a large scope or scale; involving or including much.

2.  Legislation about which the only thing that is truly comprehensive is the confusion it engenders. 

3.  Legislation purposely created so as to be so all-encompassing and so full of confusing and contradictory language as to be proof against anyone's attempts to comprehend its nature and purpose, and to further discourage anyone from even attempting to read it in its entirety.

4.  Legislation of an incomprehensible scope and scale which includes vast areas of extraneous nonsense having nothing to do with the original subject, for no better purpose than to hide unpalatable sections that both those proposing and those voting for them would rather remain off the radar screen and hidden from the light of day. 

5. Legislation so onerous and cumbersome that it's impossible to repair or repeal after passage, when the damage that it's going to cause has finally been uncovered.